The Importance of Down Time

by Hillary on July 31, 2014

pug

Earlier in the week – during an acupuncture appointment – my provider asked a question that made me ponder:

“So, what does your down time look like these days?”

“Down time? What exactly do you mean?,” asking for clarification, half-jokingly.

His valid inquiry sent me into deep thought… My first vision was of last Saturday, kayaking with P at Pinecrest. It sure was relaxing in the beautiful environment; I wasn’t “connected” to the media world, but my body was active nonetheless.

I mentioned that occasionally I’ll soak up a few rays at the pool… while listening to IIN lectures. He implied that did not count, as he shook his head no.

I thought about watching three (eek!) hours of The Bachelorette finale with my roommate Monday night… but my computer was in my lap the entire time, switching between blog and IIN work…tweeting this, pinning that. Heck, I even took mini stretching and plank breaks. Three hours of sitting isn’t “allowed” in my book.

“Does talking on the phone to my boyfriend count?,” I asked. P and I chat on the phone most nights… though I can’t deny that I am often multitasking when catching up on each other’s day. Tuesday night, my phone smooshed between my ear and my right shoulder, I hustled around the kitchen at 9:00pm whipping up a double batch of almond meal zucchini muffins; the tea pot on high to prep my morning iced coffee, a load of laundry in the washing machine.

The acupuncture’s simple question made me realize that there are rarely any still, quiet moments in my everyday life. As a Type A, ambitious young woman with an endless list of things I want to accomplish, my brain never shuts off. I’m swimming through the pool of my goals and aspirations with purpose that I rarely come up for a breath of air. While exercise may be “me time” and a “stress reliever”, I am more or less in “flight or fight mode” using my sympathetic nervous system as I am swinging my kettlebell and slamming sandbags.

I got a quick lesson during my acu appointment: If your sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems are not in balance, then you will encounter disharmony in you body. My sympathetic nervous system is on overdrive most hours of the day, minimizing the ability of my parasympathetic system to do its thing… hence, the current digestive distress I’m experiencing.

To me, it is always about productivity — when it’s not my corporate wellness to-do list, then it’s my blogging editorial calendar; it’s my non-stop IIN curriculum; it’s my exercise regimen and training; it’s maintaining a distance relationship; it’s ordering new contact lenses; it’s setting up a brokerage account; it’s calling the Comcast guy; it’s Instagramming my run, it’s on-going e-mail exchanges…

Our bodies can not sustain the busy-bee syndrome. Unfortunately, it is ingrained in the American culture so much so that we fail to recognize its effects on our internal system. I am not quite sure how I will schedule (pun intended) “down time” into my life, but I know it involves less multiasking, more mat time, less screen time, more zzz’s, less thinking, and more nature…

calm

What does “down time” look like to you?

Do you mediate? Read? Hit the mat?

How often do you have “down time”?

 

Shortly after writing this, I randomly stumbled upon another blogger’s version of what I just wrote – written oh so gracefully. Our message could not be more synchronized.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon July 31, 2014 at 5:59 am

I love this post. Down time is such a precious thing nowadays, isn’t it? Mine usually is on Sunday afternoons, watching a movie or reading. (Let’s be real, it’s napping!) I love having things to do, constantly. Being busy makes me feel good! But those few hours of downtime are so essential, and it feels really good to just clear your mind, eh? :)

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Caroline July 31, 2014 at 6:30 am

I chuckled during this post because you described my life some weeks perfectly: planks during commercials, multi-tasking on the phone, making the most of every second of every day. This is why I love reading though, it forces me to slow down and take some time to myself. I’ve been reading for at least 20 minutes every night before bed lately, and Sunday I stayed in bed until NOON reading. WHAT?!

I learned about the fight/flight idea in yoga teacher training last year, how the point of savasana is to bring your body back down to it’s resting state, which is important to do after exercise so that your body doesn’t stay continuously in the flight state. So many people skip out on the savasana in yoga, but it’s just as important as every other pose – if not more!

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Hillary July 31, 2014 at 8:08 am

I’d never thought of savasana in that light — good point!

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Samantha @ The Faithful Runner July 31, 2014 at 6:35 am

Great post! I’ve learned not to take my down time for granted. My down time is usually doing something with my hubby being I don’t get to see him during the week. We like to veg out on Sundays and watch TV while cuddling. :)

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Chicago Jogger July 31, 2014 at 6:41 am

I needed this reminder today! Down time has been on my mind lately, too, as I feel like I’m juggling too many things and struggling to keep up. I think a long walk outside this weekend is on the agenda for me now :)

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